Critique, Editing, Feedback, Revision, Writing

Writing feedback, how much is enough?

Well, I guess this means I’m blogging again—more or less. I spent my time off thinking, and reading, and traveling. Now, I’ve returned to writing. Though, obviously, I didn’t write a real blog post for today. I just have questions for you.

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel. At the time, I belonged to a critique group with about fifteen members. After several months, I left that group for one of four because the smaller group could work through a book quicker. A few months later, I also joined a group of seven or eight, but that didn’t last. Now, with my foursome on hiatus, I’m not sure how I’ll get the needed feedback on the stories I’m writing.

Maybe some of you are supremely confident in writing solo, but except for what you read on this blog, I can’t imagine ever submitting, or publishing, something without it being critiqued, edited, beta-read, then edited again. That’s why I’m curious how you all go about getting feedback on your writing.

  • Where do you find your help?
  • Are your critiquers all fellow writers? (I presume you incorporate non-writers at beta-read stage.)
  • How many people do you involve for the initial feedback?
  • Do those answers depend on the length of the work?

Please share your method with me.

Advice, Agent, Craft, Critique, Doubt, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, My Books, Novel, Query, Reader, Revision, Short story, Tips, Writing

Mistakes I’ve made as a writer … so far

Today, I’m going to swallow my pride and make an admission. I’m not perfect. I know. Hard to believe, right? But it’s true; I’ve made mistakes in my writing life. Some were minor, some not. Here’s a few biggies.

My first mistake was joining a critique group. Not really. The group was fine; it was the critique I didn’t know how to take. My previous work wasn’t written with an eye toward publication. Two years ago, that changed, and I decided I needed feedback. Inexperienced, I assumed every member of the group knew more about writing than I did. I took every bit of advice to heart and edited accordingly. Eventually, I learned to evaluate the feedback and use only what I felt made my work stronger.

My second mistake was in thinking my book was finished—again and again. Almost exactly one year ago, I thought I had finished at 69,000 words. Then, beta readers said, “Think again.” They were right. So, I edited and revised, finishing again at 82,000 words. I was embarrassed to think I’d quit 13,000 words too soon, but it was done for real this time. Right? “Not quite,” said one final beta reader. Dang. But she was right too. Back to work. Finally, at 84,000 words, I was truly finished. Or not. Something still didn’t feel right to me. I’m now working on another chapter, which will add at least 4,000 words more.

You can probably guess where my “finishing” too soon mistake lead. I also queried agents way too soon—and with a query letter I wasn’t crazy about. So, I guess that’s two mistakes in one! I think the only thing I got right at that point was my 2-page synopsis.

At least some good has come from these mistakes; I’m learning to trust my instincts more. If a suggested change doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t follow it. No matter how much I want to be done with a story or novel, unless I feel deep down that it’s finished, it’s not. And if I’m not confident a piece is my best, it’s not ready for submission.

Your turn: I’m sure you avoided these mistakes, but do you have one of your own to share?

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

Critique, Feedback, Fiction, Writing

Story or character, which weighs more?

In previous posts, I’ve told you about the beta-readers who praised my work, but now I’m going to come clean. One writer, though complimentary on my writing skills, did not think my story was successful. I respected his opinion, and certainly appreciated the time he spent reading my manuscript and writing his critique, but I was honestly perplexed how he failed to “get” so many elements of my story.

I was disappointed, to be sure, but I didn’t panic because I had solid responses to his objections. I didn’t start tearing my book apart because I knew every element he questioned was integral to the story. Did my book need work? Obviously, so—I subsequently revised the version he read, adding 16,000 words, though only a small part of those words addressed his issues. Yet his critique nagged me.

Recently, I listened to him discuss the next issue he would address in his own work—a supernatural tale. His story was finished, fully fleshed out, and now, he said, he would go back and add more characterization. I sat there thinking how wrong that sounded. Finally, the reason why thunked me on the head. His method sounded wrong to me because it’s the opposite of mine.

He has a great story he wants to tell … and, by the way, there are people in the story. I want to tell you about some people … and, by the way, they have a story.

That is a definition of action-driven vs. character-driven fiction. I’m not saying one is better than the other, that plot-driven fiction can’t have good characterization, or story doesn’t matter in character-driven fiction. But I think writers take different approaches to each.

I start with just a story premise—a situation, really—and then I explore the characters in that situation: who they are, what they want, why they don’t have it. I want to see where they live, what they do for work and pleasure, who populates their lives. I have to know them inside and out. Only then can I write their story.

Tell me, what kind of fiction do you write, and which takes precedence, story or character?

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

Craft, Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Revision, Writing

Who knew brevity could take so long?

On this blog, I’ve been chronicling my progress in writing my novel The Brevity of Roses. I announced that it was finished … more than once! Last week, I told you that Kayla had been beta-reading for me and the feedback was mostly positive. Well, this week she finished the last three chapters. Unfortunately, this time, her feedback was not good.

Just kidding. She “loved” it. That’s not to say she found no problems with it, but they’re easy fixes. What’s more, in reading through to mark what needs to be fixed, I’ve found other sentences that could be clarified or strengthened. So the editing continues.

I’m generally a patient person … except with myself. I worked on this book every minute I could spare—and a great number of minutes when I should have been doing other things—until finally, after more than a year, I pressured myself to be DONE. After the first time I thought the book was finished (at 69,000 words) I gave it to some beta-readers, took their feedback and set to editing.

Then, I sent that “finished” version to another beta, thinking she’d say it was ready for its final polish. “Ummm … no,” she said and sweetly pointed out that she would like to know a bit more about what Meredith was thinking here and there. And didn’t I think I might have rushed this scene? And Renee’s such a great character; why not give her more space?

All right … I had to admit that I had wanted to be done so badly I sold my novel short. Back to work … for six more months! My word count has grown (to 83,000 words) and my story is more layered, stronger, and yet, now I see, I have a bit more work to do. But the end is near, a few hours work, and then this novel will be …

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

Agent, Books, Editing, Feedback, Novel, Query, Read, Writing

Of dogs and submissions and books

Several things conspired this last week to exhaust me physically and mentally. Who knew dogsitting could occupy so much of your time? Of course this was on top of Easter preparations. And then there was the little matter of submitting a requested partial to an agent.

Naturally, I couldn’t send it off without another thorough read and polish, but then reality smacked me upside the head. If I receive a rejection on this, I can’t tell myself it is because of a weak query letter or so-so synopsis. Those two have already passed this agent.  So, believe me when I say it was a bit stressful to hand that mailer over to the postal clerk. My writing is on the line.

To overcome that frightening revelation, I came home and queried two more agents. Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.

I will spend most of this week’s “writing time” reading. I have the privilege of returning the favor of a beta-read (not for my recent reader) and I look forward to learning as I give. I also hope to finish one of the books I’m halfway through (yeah, really.) And maybe I’ll get caught up on my blog reading … if you don’t all decide to post every day this week.

See ya’ around.